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June 28, 2005


Gia Kourlas is right; I felt like I had to see A Midsummer Night's Dream on Friday night to greet the summer, and say goodbye to NYCB for six months. It's my first time seeing them since returning from the UK, and my last time to see them until the new season.

Sofiane Sylve and Antonio Carmena made their debuts as Titania and Oberon. Both did a good job and suit the role, though in both cases there's room for improvement through repetition. They both mime a bit oddly, at least within the context of NYCB. It's very emphatic and there's lots of airspace during the mime. The gestures are very clear, but there's no conversation between them. Carmena has excellent batterie and made all his turns, but they'd be nicer done in a higher retiré. Still, a good addition to both of their repertories. To keep Carmena moving along this road, it wouldn't hurt to let him try Prodigal Son.

Coming back after two weeks in the UK emphasizes just how many cues you get simply from repeated viewing. Things looked weird there because they went counter to expectations, but now things look weird to me here in the same way. It's not unexpected things, it's exactly the stereotype: placement, port de bras, body line, corps lines and energy. Some of the difference is pure geography; Covent Garden is cramped compared to the State Theater. Royal Ballet dancers dance under themselves and can seem lethargic – especially in Balanchine, but the NYCB line is rangy and careless in comparison.

My friend Chuck and I talked afterwards some of the differences between Ashton and Balanchine; between The Dream and Midsummer and in general. One that’s not an overt difference but another subconscious cue is how each man uses pointe work. In Midsummer, as he does often, Balanchine has lines of women cross the stage and weave about each other in traveling bourrées. I can’t think of an Ashton ballet where pointe work is used in that way; it’s generally more decorative and doesn’t travel (if you can think of exceptions, make a comment!)

We stood for an hour in front of the subway entrance on a cool summer night right after the solstice. We talked about our favorite dancers, and our less-than-favorites. We mourned Körbes’ departure, we cheered Somogyi’s return. We talked about NYCB like other men discuss baseball. They are our hometown team. We’ve each got our favorite players; he loves Nichols the way I love Kistler. We’re both nuts about Bouder.

NYCB was the company I watched while I was training. NYCB charged half of what ABT did for standing room and the ushers at the Met treated standees like dirt. So I went to NYCB several times weekly and ABT only occasionally, and fell in love with one company and not the other. I’ve watched NYCB for two decades now. I’ve watched some dancers’ whole careers now. I try to write fairly, but I have favorites. I know many of these dancers personally and watch a few of them on stage like I was watching my favorite niece. Our bond with NYCB goes beyond the artistic to the personal.

Summer begins, but the Season ends. Goodbye until winter, NYCB. I never realize how much I miss you until I see you again.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at June 28, 2005 9:44 PM

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